Mastering The Muffin
"Why don't my muffins look and taste like mall muffins?"
Commercial muffins, with their large caps, often resemble small cakes. These impressive specimens are the result of intense product development. Some varieties depend on special leaveners and disproportionate amounts of fat and sugar. The pros also have the use of commercial ovens where heat can be precisely tuned to give baked goods a "jump start".
All-purpose flour is best for muffins. Choose a bromine-free, unbleached variety of all-purpose flour. While all-purpose flour has more protein (gluten) than cake and pastry flour, it does not promote a coarse texture in the finished product. You may, if you want a more tender muffin, substitute 20-25% cake and pastry flour.
Measure flour using a dry ingredient cup. Liquid ingredients should be measured in an liquid measure cup. Ideally, ingredients should be weighed. Stir the flour in its canister to aerate it. Stirring is a reasonable compromise between scooping hard-packed flour and sifting, then measuring. Differences in flour weight can leave your muffins too soft and moist or too high, dry and tough.
A larger cap is a matter of physics. A weak foundation (i.e. a soft batter) cannot soar to impressive heights and stay there. Best flavor, texture and looks came along when the oven is properly preheated at a high initial temperature and then lowered after baking begins. Fill the muffin cups to the brim and baked in the upper third of the oven.
All grains need some sort of pre-treatment. When dealing with bran, corn meal, oat bran, wheat germ, etc. allow these grains to absorb the maximum volume of moisture. The best approach is to let the batter rest overnight in the refrigerator. The reward is a thicker batter, better flavor dispersal and higher caps.
Muffins can be made with almost any liquid. Juices add flavor and tang, milk and other dairy products add sugar and fat which assist with browning and moistness. Many bakers are partial to buttermilk in baking. I love it for the flavor it imparts and its reaction with leaveners. Frequently, a recipe will instruct you to mix the baking soda with the buttermilk. I suggest you reserve the soda's leavening power and add it to the dry ingredients. Saco Buttermilk Powder should be added to dry ingredients. Water or juice (usually one cup) replaces the liquid and is added at the point where the recipe calls for buttermilk.
Baked goods which contain oil keep longer, but solid fats produce a lighter muffin since the batter takes in more air when the fat is creamed in. Butter adds flavor and encourages a muffin to brown well. Shortening is neutral in flavor, has a higher burning point and can account for a distinct lightness of crumb. The suggested recipes were tested with oil, shortening, butter and a combination of shortening and butter. The oil worked quite well for some muffins, whereas for others, a combination was more appropriate.
You must blend your fats properly with a wire whisk or a whip. Start by blending dry ingredients with a clean whisk in a separate bowl. Use the same whisk for wet ingredients. For oil-based muffins, use a solid, heavy-duty whisk. Thoroughly cream the sugar, eggs and oil with your solid fats. Occasionally, you may find that the blended sugar, fat and eggs look curdled. If this occurs, add a small portion of the recipe's flour to help bind things. This also will help the remainder of the dry ingredients incorporate more readily. As the batter becomes thick and sticky, switch to a large rubber spatula or a wide wooden spoon.
Work your eggs and fats at room temperature. Chilled ingredients do not incorporate as well and a cold batter has to work harder to rise in the oven. Scoop batter generously.
Allow baked muffins to rest for about 5 minutes before removing them from the pan. Cool on a wire rack. Muffins which are allowed to cool in a hot pan will "sweat" and leftovers will stale prematurely. Cooled muffins can be stored in a brown paper bag at room temperature or frozen for another occasion.
Reminder: When using Saco Buttermilk Powder, add it to your dry ingredients. Substitute one cup of water or juice for the liquid buttermilk when it is called for.
© This is a Marcy Goldman/BetterBaking.com original recipe
This recipe is for sole, personal use of visitors of BetterBaking.Com Online Magazine. Marcy Goldman/ BetterBaking.com recipes are for your enjoyment but not to be posted or reprinted without express permission of the author/baker. Thank you kindly for respecting my copyright and happy baking. BetterBaking.Com, established 1997.